What is a Maryland bridge?
A Maryland bridge is a particular kind of eden prairie dental bridge. Despite its name, the Maryland bridge was invented by Atlanta dentist Dr. Stewart R. Halbauer. However, it was made popular by dentists at the University of Maryland and thus came to be known as the Maryland bridge. A Maryland bridge is made up of a metal framework, with a porcelain tooth bonded to the front of the framework. The framework appears as a pair of metal wings that splay out from either side of the teeth. These metal wings are bonded to the backs of the teeth that are on either side of the missing tooth. The Maryland bridge offers several benefits. Because no crowns are installed, adjacent teeth can be left intact and sustain no damage. Placing a Maryland bridge requires very little, if any, natural tooth structure to be removed, and, because it is a non-invasive procedure, there is little likelihood of any oral trauma being inflicted on surrounding tissues during the procedure, and anesthesia is likely to be unnecessary. Patients also report less irritation from Maryland bridges than from some other types of bridges.
While the Maryland bridge provides a simple solution for a missing tooth, they can only be used in cases where there is only one tooth missing. There are also some aesthetic problems with the Maryland bridge. The first is that natural teeth are translucent, and when the metal wings are bonded to adjacent natural teeth, those teeth will darken slightly and lose their translucence, causing them to stop matching the rest of the teeth. It is possible for the dentist to take this darkening into account, though few dentists actually do, which leads to a false tooth that is lighter in color than the adjacent teeth that are supporting it. The second problem with the Maryland bridge is that the false tooth itself, because it is made of porcelain that has been fused to metal, will lack the translucency of the natural teeth. Some people also find that the metal surfaces on a Maryland bridge are more likely to become detached from the supporting teeth, requiring the bridge to be recemented periodically. As cosmetic dentistry becomes more and more sophisticated over time, more aesthetically and mechanically successful versions of the Maryland bridge continue to be developed. Some dentists have begun to craft the entire Maryland bridge structure out of porcelain, rather than metal, though this bridge is significantly more difficult to place than a traditional Maryland bridge, and very few dentists perform the procedure. Other dentists have found success in using zirconia, rather than porcelain, to construct Maryland bridges. Zirconia is a very durable ceramic compound that has many of the same aesthetic properties as natural teeth, including translucence. While these zirconia bridges are easier to place than entirely porcelain ones, they are still more complicated than traditional metal-framed Maryland bridges, so if you want to investigate a zirconia Maryland bridge, be sure to talk to a dentist who has placed them before and has learned through experience. As cosmetic dentists continue to innovate in their uses of different materials, more and more durable and attractive options arise, increasing the overall appeal of the Maryland bridge for the right candidates.
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